Aras is the leading provider of enterprise open source Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software solutions. Freedom from licensing eliminates up-front expenses and per user costs while superior technology makes Aras the most advanced enterprise PLM solution suite available. Customers include Motorola, Freudenberg, GE, Hitachi, Lockheed Martin, Rolls-Royce, Textron and TEVA Pharmaceuticals. Aras is privately held with global headquarters in Andover, MA.
MS Office is used extensively in business operations, including PLM. Many Aras customers incorporate MS Office documents into their PLM processes. These customers want to streamline their processes by directly accessing MS Office documents in their PLM solution, eliminating the barrier between MS Office and PLM.
The design solution was Aras MS Office Connector, a full-featured, business-ready solution built on top of MS Office. It extends MS Office functionality into Aras PLM, providing a simple and flexible way to incorporate MS Office documents into PLM processes.
Key technical and operation challenges included:
PLM systems are known to be difficult to set up and configure for specific business needs. Once the system is up and running, training personnel to use them effectively can require considerable time and investment. For this reason Aras Office Connector had to be implemented to provide packaged functionality out-of-the-box, optimized for corporate-wide PLM business processes, and designed with a familiar look and feel to get users throughout the company up and running quickly.
Product designs and other project documentation are highly confidential, so the system had to be implemented to provide security features to satisfy the most demanding regulatory environments.
Requirements for hardware and software infrastructure for Aras Office Connector had to be the same as for MS Office
The solution consisted of two components:
- Extension (add-in) for MS Office
- Customized version of Aras Innovator
The solution achieves customization of Aras Innovator by setting up administrative preferences and implementation of server-side API methods to support integration with the client-side extension for MS Office. The client-side extension for MS Office was implemented so as to support the Aras user experience.
To customize a solution for specific business needs, Aras Office Connector uses the same model based SOA framework as Aras Innovator.
At the start of the project, Aras provided functional specifications that were only 50% complete. On receipt of these initial project specifications, the AMC Bridge team thoroughly reviewed the documentation, clarified requirements with an Aras product definition specialist, estimated the time required for each task, and proposed a development schedule approved by an Aras project manager, with the understanding that the specification would need to be completed, and probably modified, during the actual development process.
After project development began, the quality assurance engineer assigned to the project developed a set of test plans for the product, which were approved by the Aras project manager.
In order to keep everyone up-to-date on the progress of development and quality assurance, weekly conference calls were set up with the full team. These provided an excellent platform for resolving issues in a timely manner.
Project development of the project was accomplished in iterations, providing deliverables of the developed functionality on a regular basis. This made it possible for the quality assurance engineer to test each iteration, for product definition specialists to ensure that the functionality was properly implemented, and for user interactions to be continuously evaluated and improved.
AMC Bridge Performance
Although the product had to be developed within a tight time frame, Aras decided to use an offshore software development model and retained AMC Bridge for development and quality assurance because of its proven track record of successfully-completed MS Office related projects. The quality of work delivered by AMC Bridge exceeded client expectations:
- AMC Bridge provided quality results based on project specifications that were refined and completed during the development process.
- AMC Bridge proved resourceful at filling in gaps and providing experience-based solutions, and especially excelled during implementation of the Aras Innovator server-side preferences and MS Office add-in.
- During stabilization of the product AMC Bridge proved to be quick and responsive, with short turnaround time.
- The project was completed well within the schedule and budget.